Starve Acre is a chilling little book – perfect to be read at this time of year, when the long dark nights are upon us.
Starve Acre itself is the name of a house sitting somewhere in the wild Yorkshire moors, miles from anywhere. It’s not a farm, although the land does include a large field, where once a mighty oak may or may not have grown.
Richard and Juliette had moved to the house to bring up their young son. Yet their son has died – although it’s unclear what caused the tragedy.
At this point Richard and Juliette might as well be estranged. Juliette will barely leave her son’s bedroom, where she spends her time sleeping with and being near his things.
Richard spends his time occupying himself with cataloguing his father’s books and conducting some amateur archaeology in the field. He’s determined to prove the existence of the tree – even though it seems to have been used as a hangman’s tree.
The family unit has fallen apart.
The setting isn’t explicit, but sometime in the seventies – but life doesn’t move fast in these parts.
Juliette’s sister comes to stay and to try to rouse her sister from her bed. She’s putting a lot into a strange local spiritualist who might be able to help her.
In the meantime, Richard has found the skeleton of a hare in the field, and is getting unhealthily obsessed with it.
This is ghost story and a beautifully atmospheric one. At a time of year when tales of MR James come to our minds, this fits squarely into that folk horror bracket. It reminds me too of the excellent Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver that also takes place in rural idyll-turned-nightmare.
Curl up to this on a dark night.